Microsoft commits to Surface with Windows RT for at least four years

Microsoft commits to Surface with Windows RT for at least four years

Summary: Nearly a month after its initial release, Windows RT still has no official support policy. But Microsoft has declared its support lifecycle for the Surface hardware powered by Windows RT.

TOPICS: Windows

Although Windows RT was officially released nearly a month ago on Microsoft's Surface and on a handful of PCs from its OEM partners, Microsoft has been quiet about its support policy for RT.

Now, the mystery is partly resolved. In an update to its support lifecycle page, Microsoft has officially declared that it will support its initial Surface release for four years. That is, not coincidentally, long enough for a determined undergraduate to get through a conventional university degree program.

Normally, Microsoft supports consumer and business versions of Windows for five years (the so-called mainstream support phase) with business versions getting an additional five years of extended support.

Because Surface with Windows RT is a hardware-software combo, it plays by a different set of rules. Microsoft has decreed that its Mainstream Support End Date will be April 11, 2017, which is nearly 4-1/2 years after the product's initial release date. Because this device is considered a consumer device, there's no Extended Support End Date.

Update: On a separate page (see the Support Lifecycle Policy heading), Microsoft has updated its policy to provide additional support details for consumer hardware.

Microsoft's current policies offer "a minimum of ... four years Mainstream Support for Consumer Hardware products."

During the Mainstream Support phase, "Hardware repairs or replacements and parts are available throughout the support lifecycle. Services are free for products under warranty and available for a fee for products out of warranty. ... Updates are available for the software/firmware and OS that is embedded into the hardware (except for Surface devices, which is covered by the support lifecycle policy for the Operating System on the device)."

Additional details are available in this FAQ, which notes: "For Surface devices, any Surface software installed, embedded or downloaded on the device is subject to the software lifecycle support policy for that software (unlike other HW devices such as Xbox). ... The hardware support lifecycle policy applies only to the Surface hardware (and as stated above not the Surface software). For Surface devices, that policy affects only the tablet device and hardware based accessories (and for example not to soft goods accessories such as cases)."

That means that anyone who buys a Surface with Windows RT can expect firmware updates until at least April 2017. Support for Windows RT and for the included Office Home and Student 2013 software should be available for the minimum five-year period defined for consumer software. And there's ample precedent for Microsoft to extend that end date.

That support schedule, while a trifle skimpy by Redmond's normal standards, is downright generous compared to tablet rivals. Apple's original iPad, released in early 2010, no longer qualifies for iOS updates, security or otherwise, and it's barely 2-1/2 years old. Similarly, anyone who buys a Google Nexus 10 has no idea how long it will receive updates. The same is true for tablets from Google's many Android partners, including Samsung. Given Google's track record with orphaned Android devices, it's hard to believe these devices will be supported for more than a couple years.

Likewise, both Amazon's Kindle and Barnes & Noble's Nook are in uncharted territory in terms of support.

Surface isn't the only Windows RT device, of course. A handful of OEM partners, including Dell, Acer, and Samsung, are (or soon will be) shipping devices with Windows RT. So far, Microsoft’s support lifecycle page is mum on their expected support dates. Presumably, Windows RT, as a consumer operating system, will be supported for five years per the current policy. But as of today, the official Windows RT Product Support Lifecycle Policy FAQ doesn't list any support lifecycle dates. Instead, it simply says:

Microsoft will make software updates, including security updates, available for Windows RT. Additional information regarding the Windows RT lifecycle policy will be communicated as available.  … Office Home and Student 2013 RT has the same lifecycle policy as Windows RT.

Hat tip to an anonymous reader.

Topic: Windows

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  • Been waiting for this.

    Thanks for putting this up. I've been putting off buying one until I saw a support policy for it. When I buy devices, I buy for the next few years. I don't need or want to update every. single. year. *cough*Apple*cough*

    Now the question is, will Microsoft release Windows 9 RT for this?
    The one and only, Cylon Centurion
    • Coordination

      Microsoft partisans may need to take a moment and figure out the complaint. Mr. Bott points out, correctly, that Apple, as it upgrades annually, strands users with recent but discontinued architectures. You seem to think that my May 2011 iPad 2 getting bumped up to iOS 6 inconvenienced me somehow.

      I tend to think Mr. Bott has the stronger criticism especially as I don't believe Microsoft is not going to update the 2012 Surface RT's os.

      As to Mr. Bott's criticism, my brother got an iPad 1 Christmas 2010 and had it with him at Thanksgiving. I asked him if he still liked it, and he does, without equivocations.

      At its cost, I am expecting to get three years from my iPad, but if an update during that time degrades performance, I won't update. As Mr. Bott has wisely pointed out in another context, if you don't like Foo 8, stay with Foo 7. Besides, as the Surface's differentiator is productivity through Office, it's probably the update costs for that application that will bring out the huzzahs or brickbats from the platform's users.
      • huh?

        This comment makes no sense. I think you were trying to say something relevant to the article, but I'm not sure what.
        • Everyone who buys a Surface tablet will get shafted.

          Microsoft is not committing to full updates of the standard of Android or iOS.

          No. Not all all.

          All Microsoft is committing to is, if the platform fails in a few months, you'll get some security fixes, and maybe a bug fix if you're lucky. It does not secure the platform as a useful platform going forward.

          Surface has 100% chance of failure. And when it does, the apps will stop coming and stop getting updated. Surface will fail because it is a locked and closed system, 4 years late to market, buggy nonsensical dual interface, up against 2 successful rivals (Android and iOS). Surface is the Zune of today, gone tomorrow.
          • The fear is strong in you, Zchro

            Look, It's obvious to everyone that you fear Surface for some bizzaer reason (are you upset it's taking sales from Apple?? Thats's strange.)

            You would probably do better if you just admit it, and move on to posting something more substantial, because this hatred you have can't be healthy.
            William Farrel
          • 100% chance of failure?

            Really? What planet are you living on?
            The one and only, Cylon Centurion
          • Completely moronic post. ZERO credability.

            "Surface has 100% chance of failure"

            What an absolutely idiotic statement, given it already appears the Surface is a success.

            The only serious complaints I have heard about the Surface are again, of the absolutely moronic kind like in Zchro's post. As in "its crap and will fail". In other words; meaningless hater gobbledygook.

            Why do idiots waste their time even posting such tripe knowing they are only blowing away their own credibility, and they should be knowing it only makes the anti-Windows 8 crowd in general look absolutely desperate and without out any real argument.

            The Windows haters seem to be the ones who simply refuse to get the message. The message is, its pointless to hate a company or product that others clearly like and have a use for. It would be every bit as stupid for me to get up here and declare Macs/OSX or iOS or Linux any version as crap and doomed to failure as it is for anti Windows haters to make similarly baseless idiotic statements about Windows.

            The bad news for the haters is, Windows 8 will not fail, not fail in any form except the possibility of the always ever present risk of some OEM’s injecting it into some version of hardware that may come along at some point and be a bad mix. But Windows 8 generally not only will not fail, it cannot fail. Its actually impossible when one actually thinks in realistic terms. Its simply a question of minor, moderate or large success.

            And there in perhaps, is the Windows haters only hope. That being; if Windows 8 is only a minor success they can point at stupid idiotic pointless FUD postings as evidence that minor success actually equates with failure in their world. The interesting thing is that in their world, where either Linux or OSX is the king, they will only have a miniscule install base of the OS of their choice compared to Windows 8 no matter how big or small Windows 8 success is. And there will again be no plausible way to deny Windows 8 huge success as compared to any OS they may think is a better choice.

            So the haters can say what they want, in the end the world will continue to prefer Windows as first choice of operating system at a ratio of something more than 8.5 to 9.0 to one when compared to all other OS’s combined. And if that’s a failure for Windows 8, its an absolute catastrophic melt down for every non Windows OS that exists. I myself do not see reality in that, and as such I know there is ZERO merit to the whole “Windows 8 will fail” prophecy of Windows haters.
          • "Credability" ?

            Quite funny MS fanboys talking of other people' credibility...

            Cayble you need some anger management advise, I know it must be hard to have to defend failure after failure after failure after failure.
            Windows mobile? FAILURE
            Play for sure? FAILURE
            Zune? FAILURE
            Vista? FAILURE
            Kin? FAILURE
            WP7? FAILURE
            Windows ReTard? modest sales so far. The guy said it has 100% chances of failing. That's a reasonable statement, somehow overoptimistic, I should say Windows Retard has 90% chances of failing, just judging by the recent history, and because for Joe Average Microsoft is a bad name, associated with everything that people feel is wrong with PCs.
            We heard now many apologists and members of MS PR squad chanting the benefits of the Surface. Don't be fooled. Same people were giving high praises to the Kin (Hello, M. Miller). And after that FAILURE, they came in full force saying the failure were because the price & the data plans. Again, don't be fooled. The real reason was because the product was crap. MS knew it, the internal reviewers knew it, but, in typical Microsoft fashion they release anyway, because, because is just the way they do things. In corporate it works because they have a captive market, they always come later saying we will fix it in next version, we are here for the long run, and the usual apologists come saying, is software, no software is perfect!
          • Hey Theo...

   let's take a look at your list as I have a few nits for you:

            Windows Mobile: Was actually rather successful until the iPhone came out. Plainly put, the iPhone killed WinMobile.
            Plays for Sure was a platform for portable music players to connect to and communicate wit Windows. Plays for Sure said "if you build your devices using this set of standards for communication, it will work with Windows." It wasn't that Plays for Sure was a failure, it was the OEMs devices that were a failure.
            Zune: Ever own a Zune? I'm thinking not because you seem to be an Apple fan. The Zune device was actually BETTER than the iPod, it's just that Apple had 90% of shelf space in stores (I have it from a number of store managers that Apple actually subsidized that shelf space to take away space from it's competitors, you know monopolizing the market place, but hey, it's Apple so they're not bound by the same rules as, oh, say, Microsoft).
            Vista: Vista itself wasn't a failure, it was actually a good OS and when SP1 came out, it fixed the few REAL issues that people had with the OS. The real failure there was the Microsoft Management folks that endorsed the "Vista Compatible" branding. That was done to appease Intel who had truckloads of inferior 915 chipsets and would have had huge financial losses if Will Poole and Jim Alchin hadn't said "OK" and kissed Intel's backside.
            Kin and WP7: The failure there was in marketing for both. The platform and available devices were actually great. Kin got panned by the tech rags as inferior because it didn't have an app store, however the target audience for the device wasn't the iPhone "spend money on every stinkin' app available", the Kin was supposed to be a SOCIAL device, and in that context, it was an amazing piece of hardware and software. WP7 wasn't an iPhone killer because of limited user adoption. By the way, did you know that Verizon intentionally limited WP7 sales by not having devices to try in their stores and kiosks? Verizon wanted a piece of the iPhone pie, that was all they could see, and all they craved. Additionally, along with providers not offering the devices, app developers refused to write apps for the platform because there weren't enough users, and the users wouldn't buy the platform because the apps they wanted (such as Instagram) weren't there. Ask me how I know, go on, ask. Because I asked them and that was what they said.

            So the devices and platforms themselves were sound, not failures. The failures were with the humans.
          • How much income have you made using your IPhone or Android device?

            Do you really know much outside of your sharing....IPhone crowd?
            Read THIS! This is the real world here and NOW! Not the hollywood version.

            Windows has 92 percent market share in the desktop computer OS market globally, according to the latest figures. But in the mobile and tablet market, Apple iOS wins with 63 percent market share, followed by Android at 19 percent.

            I have to ask, when have you run a report on your IPad or IPhone and presented to your boss? Please! I beg of you! Give me an actual real world experience where you processed calculations, performed pivots on raw data on your IPad or Iphone. Apple is for simple people. I write applications to display reports on devices like your IPad, Iphone, android and fucking hate you people. You think you need this info at a whim, but when it is actually displayed on these devices, you complain. You know why you complain? Because companies like apple enable stupid people like you to think you matter. YOU don't matter! They only want you to keep buying the latest worthless device! I can think of NOTHING BETTER THAN WATCHING THE LATEST HIT MOVIE ON MY PHONE!.....SWEET! IPHONE 3 by 5 ? in high def totally beats out my 70 inch plasma. STUPID! I own the window phone 8 lumina. Sure, the IPhoney is better, but I paid 99 bucks. Your IPhoney costs your unborn child 3 years worth of Xmas presents.
          • Quick question...

            Why would Microsoft update Android or iOS? Those operating systems are not
            Microsoft products. Is Google supposed to release updates for WinRT? Is
            Apple supposed to release updates for Android? Just trying to get a handle on
            where you are going.
          • Surface support even worse than thought.

            The article update shows Surface support to be even worse than originally thought.

            There is no commitment to update the OS for any time period. Microsoft is waiting some time before revealing how long Surface's OS will be supported. Waiting to see how sales go?

            We already know Windows 8 sales are low and disappointing (numerous sources, from Thurrott to quotes from retailer NewEgg). MS CEO Ballmer admitted Surface sales are only "modest". Windows RT, which the Surface runs, is even more obscure. It has no viable app ecosystem. Worse, it is not based on any existing viable phone ecosystem (its successful rivals all succeeded in phones first, then tablets).

            Look at Microsoft's track record in mobile platforms. Windows Mobile failed. Windows Phone 7 failed. Sidekick phone failed. Kin phones failed. All these previous Microsoft failed phone platforms had their online services cut.

            Surface is already going the same way as its predecessors. That's why Surface users will get shafted.
          • You still have not addressed your original comment

            about Microsoft not updating Android or iOS. Quoting YOUR comment...
            quote "Microsoft is not committing to full updates of the standard of Android or iOS." end quote. Why would anyone look to Microsoft for these updates?
            Plus, perhaps you did not read the article...quote "Now, the mystery is partly resolved. In an update to its support lifecycle page, Microsoft has officially declared that it will support its initial Surface release for four years. That is, not coincidentally, long enough for a determined undergraduate to get through a conventional university degree program." end quote.
            4, it's not as long as the typical Windows OS support of 5 years,
            but 4 years is quite a long period in technology terms.
          • Safer with Android or iOS

            My quote: "Microsoft is not committing to full updates of the standard of Android or iOS."

            If you buy a Google Nexus Android or Apple iOS device, you know that a new OS will come out next year packed with new and exciting features. If you buy a Microsoft Surface or Windows RT device, you don't have that comfort. All you might get are a few bug fixes.

            Microsoft has released numerous mobile platforms in the past, and this is exactly what happened to all of them (eg Windows Mobile). At best, they got a security patch and a bug fix.

            Look at Windows Phone 7. Its ecosystem is now dead, as Microsoft abandons the platform and moves on to yet another completely different one (W8).

            History repeats, and Microsoft's phone and tablet products yet again fail to gain any traction.
          • @Zchro, Android? really?

            I never got updates so fast on Android devices. It is same with Windows Mobile where Carriers and OEMs had control on updates. HTC did update some of its devices otherwise it was people from XDA. The same is true with Android with XDA.

            OTOH, apple update its devices, but could you please show me iOS 6.x for iPhone 3G. It was just released 4 years back, but you can't. Nada, Zilch, zero or nothing. Your argument is totaled and made up with Hippocratic attitude. And you are scared that Windows 8 and WinRT could push your choice out one day, and that thought alone is making you to post stupid comments like this.
            Ram U
          • iPhone 3 - released July 11, 2008

            "[iPhone 3G] was just released 4 years back"

            The 3G was released 4 years and 3 months ago. That's three months more support than Microsoft is promising for the Surface RT.

            As for the iPad 1 (released on April 3 2010) this is not supported by iOS 6, because it does not gave all the hardware required by iOS 6. In particular, it does not have a camera.

            I guess it would have been nice if Apple had shipped iOS 5.5 (i.e. iOS 6 without the camera-dependent components) but I suspect iOS 6 is too CPU intensive for an iPad 1.

            The iPad 1 continues to run stably and quickly with iOS 5 so the majority of people who'll complain about this situation will be Microsoft shills, with ".NET" in their user names!
          • Nope

            They can simply not open the camera on devices without cameras, just as they always have. That's the great thing about the hardware abstraction offered by operating systems -- the primary point of having an operating system.

            The iPad 1 has faster hardware than both the iPhone 4 and the iPhone 3GS, both still supported in iOS 6. Apple's just decided it's time for iPad 1 owners to buy a new iPad. Expect more of this in the future.
          • He did say

            Google Nexus Android. Google has so far updated Nexus devices as long as they would run the OS well. The big problem with this is that devices served up through a carrier still needed the carrier's permission to update -- a little thing Apple fixed early on. Google needs a better way to deal with this.

            Of course, other Android vendors are able to set their own policies about upgrades. Google's recently done a bit in the Android licensing and Open Handset agreement to keep really old versions from being released in new devices and still called "Android", but "free" cuts both ways, after all. They really need to split the device-resident piece from Android proper, via some kind of Hardware Abstraction Layer. Then Android updates could be delivered from the Play Store.

            Apple's no saint here, and with their apparent move to multiple device refreshes per year, they may not get better. Take the iPad 1... that was still being sold in late 2011, maybe even early 2012, before the iPad 3 came out. They did not allow an iOS 6.0 update for it, despite the slower iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4 both being supported. Expect Apple to be dropping older hardware faster as the model count increases.

            Far as Microsoft goes, their insistance that the Surface RT is "like the X-Box" sure sounds like they're doing just what they did for the Windows 7 Phone devices: your device and the OS are considered one thing. They'll keep pushing out service packs for a few years, maybe some bug fixes after that, but don't expect to get Windows 9 RT on a Windows 8 RT device. And thing is, given that RT devices are booted via a BIOS, they're actually just as upgradeable, one would expect, as a desktop.

            This is all about profit, not technology. OS upgrades drive hardware sales, even when this was all about the OEM. Now that it's about Microsoft's hardware profits as well, expect things to be as locked down as you can imagine. Have to wonder if they're also dumping backwards compatibility in WinRT, as they did from Windows 7 Phone to Windows Phone 8.
          • their insistance that the Surface RT is "like the X-Box"

            Sounds good to me! Not sure if you have an XBOX but the device has gone through at least 4 'OS' upgrades, each update greatly improving and changing the interface. Their support on this device has been fantastic. Also this device isn't called 'Windows 8 RT' so why would you think there would be a 'Windows 9 RT'? Microsoft could very well include OS updates for the next 4 years, not good enough for you? I know it's hard to compare to the great many Android devices from 2008 running Jellybean...
            Koopa Troopa
          • nope

            Windows 9 is going to be released three years from now. Surface has 4 year support what is a hardware support. Microsoft is not going to release a windows 9 for surface with 1 year support for it.